[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/21/art.palin.closeup.jpg caption ="Former Alaska Governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate Sarah Palin spoke at a Iowa GOP fundraiser Friday night."]
Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) - Sarah Palin's maiden voyage to Iowa as a potential presidential candidate was, on its face, a fundraiser for the state Republican Party - and an early chance for the former Alaska governor to get some face time with the caucus-goers who will play a major role in determining the party's nominee in 2012.
Instead, Palin trained her fiery message right at the television cameras in the rear of the room, setting herself up squarely as a national leader fueled by populist Tea Party fury against President Obama and his Democratic allies in Washington.
"This is it, GOP," she said. "This is our time. We can't blow it GOP. But we won't wait for that political playbook to be handed to us on high from the elites. It's we, the people, the average hard-working American people, who will turn this around. It's the voters who will stop this fundamental transformation of America."
The cause of this election cycle is a revivalist one, she said, calling the political moment "the great awakening of America."
In 30 minutes of remarks, Palin made only one direct nod to the presidential implications of her visit to the first-in-the-nation caucus state - a politely-received joke about donning sneakers to "go running Iowa."
But it was clear that she was basking in the glory her recent string of successful GOP primary endorsements.
In one striking moment, Palin outlined a vision of what the Republican Party might resemble under her command, or as she put it, "if I were in the hierarchy of the GOP to rally the troops" this midterm cycle.
She imagined dispatching some of the party's top leaders and several media figures like Bill Kristol and Rush Limbaugh around the country to campaign for conservative candidates.
"I'd say DeMint, you're awesome, you need to go be down South," she said. "Mitt, go west! G.W., we need you to raise funds."
She also unleashed a torrent of attacks against a favorite target: the "lamestream media." Palin blasted "reporters in the liberal media" and "antiquated Beltway pundits" as "gutless" and "cowards" who resort to using anonymous sources to trash those with whom they disagree.
Reporters who do so dishonor American troops overseas who "sacrifice all for your freedom," she said.
She made plain that her endorsement victories - namely the latest one in Delaware, where insurgent Christine O'Donnell toppled longtime Rep. Mike Castle - affirmed the viability of the small government message she shares with the Tea Party movement.
"Times are tough, but there are signs of hope wherever you look," she said. "In places like Des Moines and Davenport, and Dover, Delaware."
Palin told reporters after the speech that she wants to "get to Delaware very soon to knock on doors."
She demanded that Republicans unite after a season of divisive primary battles, accusing losing candidates of having "attitudes."
"Did you ever lose a big game growing up?" she asked. "You lose some, you win some."
Asked by a reporter if her primary wins were a validation of her political influence, Palin responded: "Not on my message, but on that message that is held by so many, and I think by so many in the in the mainstream, that we need to looking at ways to reign in the federal government. But not particularly specifically to Sarah Palin, not all."
"I feel very thankful to have a platform to be able to express on a national level what all kinds of people are saying," she added.
Despite telling Fox News earlier Friday that she is open to a presidential bid, Palin was murky when asked when she will make a decision on her future.
"I don't know," she said. "I know that you can make a big difference in America without even having a title."
The Republican activists who attended the Des Moines speech purchased tickets for $100 a pop, banking the state party over $100,000.
Most of those interviewed by CNN had warm words for the former governor, who last visited the state in December during her national book tour.
"Her biggest drawback is she hasn't really come up through the Republican ranks," said Frank Jacobs, a retiree from Mitchell County in northern Iowa. "Some folks don't like that. But us peasants out in the field, we like her because of her conservative values. And if she has to battle with someone, she will."
But several said that if Palin runs for president, she will have to do more than deliver passionate speeches and step outside her comfort zone of Facebook, Twitter and her satellite-outfitted home in Wasilla, Alaska.
Iowa caucus-goers take pride in seeing their candidates up close, said Jim Cross, a library director. At some point, he said, Palin will have to leave the podium and answer direct questions from voters at barbecues and town hall meetings.
"In rural Iowa, there are a lot of people, a lot of older folks, who don't use Facebook and Twitter," Cross told CNN. "For right now, there's nothing wrong with keeping her name out there. But you do need to come see us at some point."